The European Parliament has voted for stripping the leader of France’s National Front of immunity over charges of propaganda of extremism and violence.
Len Pen was stripped of immunity for an incident of two years ago, when in December 2015 she tweeted photos of executions of hostages by militants of the terrorist organization Islamic State. The affair emerged in the limelight again of late in the run-up to the French presidential election, due on April 23. According to the latest opinion polls, Le Pen is the front-runner, followed closely behind by the leader of the En Marche! (On the March) party.
Le Pen published the shocking photos after one of the leading French journalists Jean-Jacques Bourdin in his program likened her party to the Islamic State. In response angry Le Pen Tweeted photos showing fiendish executions committed by Islamists. The caption read “This is the Islamic State. Not to be confused with the National Front.”
The photos’ publication followed just one month after the terrorist attacks in Paris (of November 13, 2015). At that moment it caused no scandal at all. After a brief debate Marine Le Pen removed the photos but the French authorities went ahead with the investigation using the propaganda of extremism as a formal charge, although the message of Le Pen’s tweet meant just the opposite. In this way she tried to draw the public’s attention to the cruelty of extremists.
Now that Le Pen has lost immunity, she may face a prison term of up to five years or a fine of 75,000 euros. The trial may last for more than a year, or even more, including the time needed for appeals. As such the litigation will not prevent Le Pen from participating in the election but may harm her image.